Please note that this is a capsule review. Our full review is under embargo until the film’s release date, which is October 4th.
Peter Landesman’s impressive directorial debut, Parkland, is a taut picture, one with an all-star cast and a compelling story. Though the film presents us with an event that we’re all incredibly familiar with, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, it does so from a perspective that we don’t usually see: that of the normal, everyday citizens who found themselves caught up in the tragedy.
Parkland provides us with several overlapping stories, all focused on pivotal players in this historic event. Whether it’s the doctors who worked at the Parkland hospital (Zac Efron, Colin Hanks), Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), the man who captured the assassination on film, the Oswald brothers (James Badge Dale and Jeremy Strong), or several members of the FBI and secret service, watching the events unfold through the eyes of these individuals offers a fresh take on the story that is both riveting and very affecting.
Performances from this all-star ensemble are excellent across the board, with some especially good work coming from some of the lesser known names, like James Badge Dale, who turns in the best work of his career.
Landesman directs the film very well too, using a docu-drama style to land all of the key moments of the story with aplomb and putting you right in the midst of all the chaos by instilling a real sense of immediacy.
The whole conspiracy surrounding the assassination is wisely never touched upon. Landesman simply provides us with a refreshing take on a monumental historic event and though he doesn’t exactly present us with anything new or revelatory, it is certainly interesting to see how JFK’s assassination touched the lives of these individuals.
The scenes with JFK dying in the hospital are especially moving and the storyline circling around the impact that Lee’s actions have on his brother Robert’s life is particularly interesting as that’s an aspect of this story that is usually overlooked.
Unfortunately, several aspects of the film do fall short. Some of the dialogue is rather banal and several moments are terribly misjudged, some even bordering on a bit exploitive. Also, as expected, with this many stories to juggle, some of the subplots don’t get fleshed out enough and two or three of the characters are slightly under-written.
Still, it’s hard to deny the sheer power that the film hits you with. Though I can see why some people may be turned off with what’s on display here, I found Parkland to be a gripping film and one of the more enjoyable movies playing at the Toronto International Film Festival.